Meal Planning Tips and This Week's Menu Plan

This week has been lovely, but not terribly eventful or really photo worthy (which is FINE by me). Well, I did get this one of the kids flying high on the swings today:

We're enjoying another round of summer like weather in these parts. 

Instead today, I thought after all these years of sharing weekly menus, that sharing my tips on planning the meals would probably be a nice thing to do! I did briefly touch on the mechanics of our list making many years ago, but not how to really make the day to day easier. The whole 'tips and tricks' thing just seemed so contrived to me, but after seeing this meme on Another Mother Runner's Instagram, I felt like it was my duty to say HOLD UP. I mean, is this how people go about planning meals?? That's insane! Like running a marathon without training. Start simple! Use shortcuts! Plan ahead! So, yeah, I caved. Here are some "Tips and Tricks" in no particular order.
  1. Plan ahead is the most obvious of all the tips and my list making philosophy is what's linked above. You know you have soccer practice on Tuesday night? Sausages on the grill and salad! etc. which brings me to my second point...
  2. Plan for pizza night. Pick the one night a week that you KNOW you will cry uncle and need frozen or takeout. For us, that's actually Monday. So, if it's planned, it doesn't feel like a 'failure' for ordering out and you don't fall into spiral of despair.
  3. Use the crock pot. Here's a nice little list of favorite crock pot meals.
  4. Use chicken breasts instead of tenders. When a recipe (like our favorite Satay Chicken) calls for tiny tenders to be breaded or skewered, I think: ain't nobody got time for that! Just pound thin some chicken breasts and grill/bake. I plan to do this for the Thai Chicken Fingers this week - just coat and cook chicken breasts. Done.
  5. Use prepared marinades and sauces. Last week I didn't feel like making enchilada sauce from scratch for the Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas. SO I DIDN'T. Rick Bayless to the rescue! Also? Trader Joe's Soyaki and Red Curry Sauce to the rescue! And if you want total shortcut meals I'd check out this awesome Instagram account The Traders Table, which shares recipes of all Trader Joe's ingredients. I've yet to try one, but they all look delicious.
  6. Stir frys are easy and healthy. Just buy your protein, veggies and a sauce (as mentioned above) and you have dinner in 20 minutes.
  7. Buy frozen rice (always a staple from Trader Joe's). In three minutes you have fluffy rice (or quinoa, or cauliflower rice) and no pot to clean.
  8. If you're going to put in the effort, make sure you get two meals out of it. That crazy meal on day one of the meme is totally a weekend cook and freeze effort - mac and cheese, meatballs and soup are all things freezable! They are all on my list of favorite things to freeze I made two years ago. So on those days I don't rely on Frontera sauces from Rick Bayless, and I DO make enchilada sauce from scratch, you'd better believe I make double and freeze a bag. 
  9.  Salads are, like stir frys, so easy and we plan for one every week. Also, here are 20 great ideas from Shutterbean.
  10. Have a "looking forward to" meal every week. (Obviously, ours is Saturday date night.) The more time you spend happily cooking, the more you will probably LIKE cooking.
OK! Hopefully that will be somewhat helpful to someone? Now on to this week's menu.
  • Monday - Pizza!
  • Tuesday - Thai Sticky Chicken BREASTS with Roasted Broccoli (new favorite recipe from Iowa Girl Eats)
  • Wednesday - Fancy Mac and Cheese from the FREEZER with Salad (leftover frozen Pioneer Woman's Mac)
  • Thursday - Everything Jumbalaya with FROZEN RICE (and old Rachael Ray)
  • Friday - Taking the kids out for dinner, as it's birthday week around here!
  • Saturday - Top Sirloin Steaks, Baked Sweet Potatoes and Creamed Spinach ( trying this spinach recipe from The 350 Degree Oven for date night)
  • Sunday - Almond Apple Quinoa Salad (trying this recipe from The Messy Apron)
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie and Mommy Run Fast- be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


  1. I love these tips! So super true! I like the one about the effort as a 2-4-1 meal- good advice! I am pinning your crockpot roundup too, since I use mine, the busier that I am, and I have it on my meal plan 3 times this week! Have a good week~

    1. For sure, the crockpot is a lifesaver! I hope that some of the recipes work out for you :)